Monday, May 4, 2015

Dinner in the Diner Dreams

Perhaps the most famous of dinner in the diner scenes

"He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)

April 2015 and heading west to Vancouver on Via Rail's Train 1. Somewhere west of Winnipeg, seated in a quiet dining car and contemplatively recalling a few scenes from 41 years earlier.

Flashback to April 1974...

Somewhere west of Winnipeg on April 2015 and heading west toward Vancouver on Via Rail's Train 1. Seated in a quiet dining car and watching the miles roll by while contemplatively recalling almost identical scenes from 41 years earlier.

Calgary, my destination this trip, was still 600 miles and 20 hours distant, and as I stared at the telephone poles flashing by outside, for a moment I questioned my being here on the train, "What am I doing?"

As a recent hire that successfully passed the probationary period, I was making my first ever journey on the train using my just-issued CP Rail employee pass and thus fulfilling a dream; just a weekend ride on the train to Calgary and back. That expected satisfaction was absent. Something was wrong. I was making this journey alone and a part of me still ached for her... that special one I had yet to meet.

Twenty miles later the steward made his second call for dinner. Hungry, I headed back through several cars to find the dining car. 

While it appeared to me the train had a considerable crowd aboard, the dining car was nearly empty. The steward seated me at one of the vacant tables which had been set for four. He must have been more optimistic than I was prepared to be, however, the other three seats remained unoccupied the entire time. That fantasy of a life-changing chance meeting was not going to unfold here. Naturally! This train was not the 20th Century Limited in Hitchcock's North By Northwest. 

As with all the other waiting tables, mine had been set true to the railway's high, exacting standards. The chinaware and silver plated utensils were perfectly arranged on top of a spotless thick white linen tablecloth adorned with a perfectly matching serviette. Every item bore CP Rail's name and distinctive multi-mark logo.

Shortly after I was seated, a waiter presented me with a menu and an order form together with a freshly sharpened short pencil. Railway waiters were prohibited from taking verbal orders therefore patrons were obliged to write down on the forms any items for dinner they desired from the menu. This practice was one of those curious oddities unique to railways. Writing while the train was in motion was difficult at best and I am not certain how the waiter managed to read my list. Perhaps years of reading illegible orders made these men experts at deciphering anything. As I waited for my dinner to arrive I was treated to occasional tantalizing whiffs of broiling foods.

While enjoying the delicious and well-prepared dinner, I watched the scenery outside pass by as the waning daylight faded into darkness. The train had entered the famed Fraser River Canyon and the pace was very subdued. In spite of the slow speed though I constantly felt a need to lean left or right to compensate for the train's lurches and tilting through a seemingly never ending series of sharp curves followed by reverse sharp curves. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my dinner in the diner and watched with fascination the erratic sloshing of the coffee in my cup. The cup was seated upon an expertly folded napkin placed there to catch the dribbles of coffee that spilled over the edge. The napkin also prevented the cup from rattling and moving around on the saucer.

Watching the waiters flawlessly and unfailingly deliver trays of plates loaded with meals to the few other passengers was the evening's entertainment. Regardless of lateral movements induced by curves or the varying speed of the train, the waiters never fumbled or lost their balance. Their ability was an art.

After dinner while finishing either my third or possibly fourth cup of coffee I studied the features of the dining car and wished that one day I would be able to take that one special someone out to dinner... in a dining car... here on the Canadian. Perhaps an unusual choice of restaurant but one certainly refined and steeped in a tradition of romance. I made the dream my own and promised myself to fulfill.

Blunt reality though was that I had no one special in my life to take out, not even to a greasy spoon joint back in town, never mind a first class dining car on CP Rail's premier train

Returning to the present...
Stopped in Edmonton and checking for messages from home.
This April 2015 scene of Kie in the dining car was taken the following morning; she is the one who recorded the image of me atop this entry.

Yes! I know! 

The passing of a few years were required to fulfill my dream of having dinner in the dining car of "The Canadian" with that one special person of a lifetime for a lifetime... not on CP Rail and not travelling on an employee pass... but some things in life are truly worth the wait.

"A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Deo gratias.

The Oddblock Station Agent

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